Rent The Musical – Churchill Theatre, Bromley

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Celebrating its 20th anniversary of Jonathan Larson’s Rent and after it’s astronomical success from it’s extended run at St James Theatre, Rent The Musical wowed the audience with it’s opening press night at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley.

The show is set within a grubby and dark block in Manhattan, where the stage comprised of various pieces of scaffolding gives the production a gritty yet fresh canvas in which to build the stories of the cast as they each come to life. The superbly talented cast work extremely well with each another and the casting compliments the energy, power and raw emotion this musical deserves.

The inhabitants land themselves in trouble when the landlord, Benny, demands the rent from last year. He cuts all power to the building on Christmas Eve. We follow each of the characters and watch as their lives become entwined with each other. Mark’s girlfriend Maureen is now seeing Joanne. Roger falls head over heels for Mimi, a rather eccentric dancer and drug addict. We also meet Collins who falls in love with Angel, a cross-dressing drummer. The production sees the audience spending a year in their life, with the famous musical hit “Seasons Of Love” being the backdrop and inspiration for the show with the famous opening line of 525,600 minutes. In Act 1 when the cast are gathered to sing this beautiful song, the incredible voices struck me and Jenny O’Learys vocals were fantastic, hitting the top note with ease!

The lively character of Angel was played by Harrison Clark, due to the indisposition of Layton Williams. Harrison certainly had the energy, passion and flair to perform this role perfectly, especially as we see his relationship develop with Tom, played by Ryan O’Gorman. It is within the second act we see Angel and Tom ripped apart by Angels death and the rawness of Tom’s , “I’ll Cover You” was felt by everybody, with us all feeling the very tender and raw emotion this song provides. An extremely reflective moment for us all, teaching us once again how precious life is and how life was back then.

Lucie Jones (X Factor contestant & most recently announced as the UK’s Eurovision entrant) was for me, by far my favourite character. Her vocal range and tone were epic and it could be seen that she was having so much fun playing Maureen. Jones was playful and cheeky with her delivery and this was received well by the audience. Her commitment to perform the role was clear and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance.

With live music provided by the band who were sat within the scaffolding and with the use of great lighting, they both complimented the production although there were a handful of sound issues with microphones not being brought in on cue and silence in parts. However this didn’t spoil the show and the cast, as true professionals carried on without a glitch.

This was my first time seeing Rent, a show which I have listened to the soundtrack for a number of years but never got round to seeing it and a production in which many popular musical theatre songs have entertained theatre fans around the world. Whilst uncertain at first about what to expect from this production, I was gripped within minutes and with the talented cast, a raw and emotive storyline – it fully deserved the standing ovation it received from it’s first night at The Churchill Theatre.

I will most definitely be seeing this show again very soon! A huge well done to all involved – productions like these are few and far between! Rent continues playing at The Churchill Theatre until Saturday 11th February – grab tickets now if you can! You will love it!

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